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NIAA approves alignment for fall sports

The NIAA Board of Control has officially approved creating Class 5A and the alignment for each of the fall sports that will be in effect for the next two years.

The recommendations that were made by the NIAA realignment committee in December were approved by the Board of Control without many changes. The board also approved playoff formats for each of the fall sports.

“A lot of different thinking went into this, and it took a lot of open minds to get this done,” NIAA assistant director Donnie Nelson said. “Using competitive balance to place teams shows the state is open to trying something new, and I think a lot of people are excited to see how it plays out.”

One area that did change from what was recommended involves Class 4A football. The original recommendation called for the 17 teams to be split into two leagues, but the approved version calls for three. All of the 4A schools will be from Southern Nevada.

The 5A football alignment includes nine teams in the north in one league and 11 in the south split into two leagues. The playoff format approved by the board for 5A football guarantees a North vs. South state championship game.

“On one hand, I don’t mind that,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “It would be nice to have the two best teams playing for the state championship every year. But if you’re a North team that has no chance to win state, at least you have a regional championship to shoot for, so I understand why they did it this way.”

Schools in 3A-5A have been placed into alignments based on a rubric that the NIAA hopes will ensure better competitive balance. Class 1A and 2A are aligned based on enrollment.

While 5A is the new class by name, Nelson said he thinks 4A is actually the new one. That’s because the powerhouse schools are still together in 5A, as they were in 4A, while many of the schools in 4A should have a better chance of having success.

“We feel like we’ve put schools in position where they feel like they have a chance,” Nelson said. “The execution of this rubric is new, and it took a long time to develop a point system that is more specific to individual sports and give teams a chance to compete.”

Muraco said he hopes the emphasis on competitive balance across all sports will lessen the number of blowouts in regular-season games, which in turn could improve participation — especially at schools that haven’t had as much success in recent years.

The board also:

— Granted Pinecrest Academy Cadence full membership.

— Made Cadence a 3A school.

— Granted associate memberships to Cristo Rey and Pinecrest Sloan Canyon, which will compete as independents next year.

Winter sports alignments for 3A-5A will go before the board at the end of March, while the spring sports will have their meeting in June.

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2936. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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